Dear Annie: I am in my late 20s and have been happily married for more than five years. Here is the problem:

My parents divorced when I was little, and my father is an alcoholic. Ever since I can remember, he would call me on the phone, drunk and rambling so much that by the end of the call, I would be in tears. The past couple of years he's gotten worse. He is verbally abusive, calling me names and telling me how stupid I am, but in the same breath, crying that I am the only thing in his life.

I have tried to stand up to him, and it only has made things worse. He tells me that his miserable life is all my fault and that he doesn't have a drinking problem.

Annie, this is killing me and my marriage. I am ready to start a family, and I do not want Dad to have any contact with my future kids until he can get sober. I have tried the help groups and have had counselors talk to the rest of my relatives. I don't know what else to do other than to move away from my family. — Sober Only Child

Dear Sober: You cannot change your father's behavior, but you can work on changing your reaction to his emotional abuse, and if that means keeping your future children away from family gatherings where Dad is present, then don't be afraid to do it. It sounds as if your family has been enabling Dad long enough.

We don't know which help groups you have tried, but please look into Adult Children of Alcoholics (adultchildren. org) at P.O. Box 3216, Torrance, CA 90510.

Dear Annie: I have three sisters and one brother, and we all live in the same retirement community. We all are in our 70s, and our spouses are living.

This place has many activities. You can do most anything whether or not you are skilled at it. We play golf, even though we are terrible at it, we go to the swimming pool, even though we don't really swim, but we all have a great time, and all activities are free.

However, one sister refuses to participate in any activity, whether or not her husband joins us. "Bessie" always has an excuse — she's not feeling well, it's too hot, too cold, too windy. We only have a few years left, and we would love to get her to spend more time with us. Do you have any ideas? — Miss Her in Tampa, Fla.

Dear Miss Her: Has Bessie always been reluctant to do these activities? Might she be embarrassed to be seen as clumsy or foolish? Is it possible she has a physical problem and is trying to hide it? Could she simply enjoy having those moments to herself? One of you can ask her directly, "Bessie, we are concerned about you. Why do you refuse our invitations?" If she won't confide in you, there's not much you can do. Perhaps she simply doesn't enjoy physical activity and would prefer sharing dinner with you. That, too, is a nice way to visit.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Once Bitten, Twice Shy in New York," whose in-laws' dog tried to bite her 2-year-old daughter. The in-laws refused to keep the dog away from the girl.

Dogs that are accustomed to being around adults are unpredictable around young children. Sudden movements and squeals so typical of children having fun can trigger an attack by a normally docile animal. I was working in the ER when a 4-year-old child was brought in with a severe head injury from a dog that had never been aggressive toward anyone before.

Shame on the grandparents for jeopardizing the safety of their grandchild. It's sad that little girl will grow up knowing their dog was more important than she was. — Nanna in Louisiana

Dear Nanna: We agree that one should never allow a situation where a child is at risk, and these grandparents have their priorities out of order. Thanks for writing.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.